Former school official gets probation
Brandon M. Keirns, 32, Milwaukee, pleaded no contest in Rock County Court on Wednesday to charges accusing him of organizing a scheme to profit from district purchases.
He was sentenced to three years probation for one felony charge of being a public employee entering into a contract with private interests and five misdemeanor charges of theft.
State statutes prohibit public employees from arranging contracts for their employer that benefit themselves.
Keirns agreed to pay the school district $178,000 in restitution, including a down payment of $70,000. He will then pay about $3,000 a month for three years.
The felony charge could be dismissed if Keirns completes probation. He could face prison time if he violates probation.
Keirns is accused of buying the district $215,000 worth of computer software from companies he or his friend owned. He is suspected of transferring money the school district paid the companies into his personal bank account and using some money to buy a condo.
Sara Gehrig, the school district’s attorney, said the plea agreement might allow Keirns to avoid a felony conviction.
She said Keirns could have been charged with felony racketeering, which carries a tougher penalty than being a public employee entering into a contract with private interests.
Gehrig said Keirns’ greed and betrayal of the school district’s trust impacted taxpayers and the community.
“You cannot serve two masters,” Gehrig said. “His actions cost the district.”
Keirns’ attorney, Trish Arreazola, said her client didn’t know he couldn’t buy district equipment from his own companies or business contacts. She said Keirns gave the district excellent prices that it might not have received elsewhere.
Keirns, appearing in court in a suit and tie, chose not to speak before his sentencing.
Judge Richard Werner said it was hard to believe a person in Keirns’ position would think it was common practice to buy district equipment from his own companies.
Keirns, who was hired in December 2007, resigned in November 2008 after a computer virus crippled the school district’s computers for weeks.
Keirns also faces a civil suit filed by the school district that accuses him of racketeering and fraud. The district wants money for damages, attorney fees and the cost of its investigation.